A Study in Scandal (Scandalous)

By: Caroline Linden

It seemed like a sign from above, when she turned the corner and the first thing she saw was the coach bound for London. Samantha stopped in her tracks. Her breath grew short and her heart raced. No. The Earl of Stratford’s daughter would never take a public coach…but perhaps that was why a mad urge to do just that billowed up inside her, choking her with longing. London was only ten miles away.

London, where her brother was.

Her feet started moving as her brain disposed of one argument after another. No one would know where she had gone…but her mother was the only one who would truly care, and Mama would understand. Her father would be furious…but he was away from home for the next few days. She could take the coach back to Richmond tomorrow and the earl would never know.

By the time she reached the driver, it seemed preordained that she would ask for a place on the coach; that he would have one left; and that the price would be almost exactly the sum in her reticule. When he added that the coach would depart in just a few minutes, Samantha only smiled. She climbed up and took her seat, keeping back from the window. Now that she had made her decision, she didn’t want anyone to see her and try to stop her.

The coach was nearly full. The four other passengers gave her some curious glances, but no one spoke to her. They started off with a jerk, and she felt a small burst of excitement. This was an adventure, something she’d had very few of in her well-behaved, circumscribed life. She imagined Benedict’s reaction when she appeared on his doorstep. He would be surprised, but also, she hoped, glad that she’d come to him.

The dust blowing through the windows made her cough; she would be filthy when she reached London. A discreet glance at her fellow passengers showed that she was the only one unprepared for travel. Everyone else wore sturdy boots and plain clothing. She felt a little out of place in her ruby spencer and pink dress, and unconsciously tucked her soft leather boots further beneath her skirts.

Before long the spires of London came into sight. Now she watched out the window in delight as the coach rumbled over city streets. They passed the expanse of Hyde Park, then the lush Green Park. The bustle of Piccadilly slowed the coach as they reached the heart of the city. Samantha’s toes curled inside her shoes; she knew where Benedict’s Guard regiment was quartered, but she’d never actually gone there, only to the parade ground nearby. Resolutely she forced aside the whisper of doubt. She could ask and be directed to the headquarters, and someone there would help her find Ben.

The coach finally turned into a yard seething with activity. It was hard not to gape in amazement as she climbed down. When her family came to London, the Stratford coach took them directly to the large house in Portland Place, bypassing this part of town. She didn’t know exactly where she was now; the bustling yard and street beyond were far noisier, dirtier, and busier than Portland Place ever was.

But she had made it to London, and would not be deterred by something as trivial as being lost. Samantha went into the posting inn and asked for directions to Hyde Park Corner. She knew how to find the parade ground from there. The harried innkeeper pointed the way, and Samantha set out.

This London was a very different city from the one she had seen before. Omnibuses filled with people rumbled past. Elegant carriages with ladies out taking the air rolled past, on their way to the shops. Vendors stood on every street corner, calling out their wares. A ragged little girl with a basket of flowers ran after her, calling her “Your Worship” and begging her to buy a flower. Samantha was shocked by the child’s spindly legs, bare below her too-short dress. She dug into her reticule for one of her last ha’pennies and handed it over in exchange for a bunch of daisies. The girl gave her a gap-toothed grin and scampered back into the crowd, crying to another woman to buy her flowers.

Samantha contemplated her daisies. They were slightly limp, as if they’d been picked some time ago, but still bright and cheerful. They made her smile.

“Your pardon, my lady!” A man sprang in front of her, sweeping off his hat and giving her a flourishing bow. “A moment of your time, please.”

“Oh, I beg your pardon, sir…” She stepped backward, unnerved by his boldness. But he was handsome and well dressed, if a bit extravagantly, and perhaps people in London were more forward.

“It’s about the girl.” His eyes strayed after the flower seller, although she had long since vanished into the crowd. “With the flowers. Do you know her?”

“Not at all.”

He sighed and shook his head sadly. “Have you ever seen her before today?”


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